By the time he met up with the rest of the squad, Bradley had come to terms with recent events. By switching them off from his mind, he could concentrate on getting another three points on the board. His mood was one of surly determination on the training pitch and his manager spotted that something was on his mind.
‘You okay, Bradley? You seem a bit edgy about something.’ Jimmy Anderson asked as he took him to one side.
‘I’m alright, boss. Just got a few things on my mind right now.’
‘Naw, there’s something big bothering you and I need to know what it is. Come on, out with it.’ Jimmy pressed.
Bradley looked Jimmy in the eye and told him about his parents.
‘I’m sorry to hear that, Bradley, I really am. It’s never nice when that happens. I know, it happened to me. But look, however bad it may seem for you, it’s ten times worse for your parents so the last thing you want to do is just blame them and distance yourself from them. They need you right now. They need you to help them through it. Give them a call later.’ Jimmy advised.
‘Mebbe. I’ll see.’ Bradley grunted.
He went back to training thinking about whether to call them or not. Jimmy Anderson would keep a close eye on him for any signs of a problem. He could afford to drop Bradley for the Moldova game if necessary.
The decision whether to call or not was taken away from Bradley when one of the players came into the dressing room later that day armed with a copy of the Glasgow Evening News.
‘BRADLEY’S MUM IN THREE-IN-A-BED SCANDAL!’ ‘Bradley Gardner not the only one in his family who knows how to score!’
He couldn’t believe what he was reading. It was alleged that his Mum had embarked on a string of affairs with local tradesmen and one of her son’s coaches while his Dad was away on business, including a steamy romp with two plumbers. He was hurt most of all by the allegation that one of his coaches was involved. Who could that have been? She didn’t know anybody at Hearts, Arsenal or Scotland, so that only left Stuart. The thought had passed briefly through his mind in the past that the two of them got on well, but would never have thought it would have led to anything more.
His team mates rallied around him and told him not to worry too much. It was probably a load of rubbish anyway; the gutter press would never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Most likely someone just out to try and make some easy cash by letting some rag have a half-baked story. Bradley just sat there reading and re-reading the headlines, when his phone rang. It was Archie, his agent and manager.
‘Hey Bradley? I guess you’ve seen the news. We need to meet up quickly. Can I meet you at your hotel in ten minutes?’
‘Sure’ Bradley answered weakly and hung up.
He spoke to Jimmy Anderson who told him to go and see Archie and see what he could do. He was used to situations like this and he could deflect a lot of heat away from him. He got one of the other boys to give him a lift back to the club’s hotel where Archie was waiting, along with a gathering of Paparazzi.
Camera flashes went off and microphones were thrust into his face as he fought his way through to the lift where Archie was holding the door open for him.
‘Well done for not saying anything, Bradley. We’ll give them a statement later. Now, what’s your side of the story? Were you aware of any shenanigans going on between your Mum and other men?’ Asked Archie.
‘Never! I don’t believe any of it.’ Bradley raged. ‘She wouldn’t do anything like that. Not to my Dad. How did they get this story? I’ve only just found out that my parents are getting a divorce.’
‘It doesn’t take much, unfortunately. Just one whispered rumour that gets blown out of all proportion and ends up on the front page of the tabloids. Happens to a lot of successful people in this country. Seems nobody likes a winner; they all want to knock successful people off their perch.’ Archie offered.
‘What can we do about it? I’ve got a big game coming up.’
‘Don’t you worry, I’ll prepare a statement for you to read out to the press outside. They’ll print it and forget about it. Today’s news is tomorrow’s chip wrapper, son. Leave it to me.’
An hour later, Bradley addressed the assembled members of the press who by now had retired to the hotel bar to spread the latest gossip and rumours.
He denied any knowledge of the allegations made against his Mum and told them it wasn’t any of their business. He had an important game to play and he was sure that they would rather him help Scotland to victory rather than discussing tittle-tattle that probably had no grounds anyway.
Refusing to answer any questions, he returned to his room with Archie briefly before Archie left the hotel, also refusing to respond to the press. The following day in training would be difficult.